December Farm, Overflow Edition

There is a heron working the creek, a big blue bird with slow wing-beats. I’ve never seen one here before. The Little Tavern was flowing strong, its overflow channel along the road deep as I’ve ever driven through.

I’ve got radio going in the house. It’s chilly but I’ve largely unpacked. I’m cleaning the ash out of the wood stove. The light is fading but there is not a cloud in the sky.

At 17:22 it is not quite gloaming. The AM radio fades out.

Gloaming with a little bit of contrail

Need Bulbs?

I was going to get another thermometer at Orscheln in Owensville, same as I got last time, with the hygrometer on there as well, at the bottom, its dial telling you “Very Dry”, “Dry”, “Normal”, “Humid”, or “Very Humid”. But Orscheln was all out of them!

I have the Camellia Bowl on the radio, Eastern Michigan versus Georgia Southern. The signal is colicky, patchy, rough with static. It’s the only ESPN radio affiliate I’ve been able to scratch out. I’m using one of the two “house radios”, one of the ones that was just here, organic I suppose. It’s an old GE model, manual tune. The sound, when you snag a signal clear, is quite good. It’s the ON/OFF button at the top that is quite touchy—mercurial, saturnine, prickly, aloof.

I’ve been struggling with the stove. What’s new!? It’s always a struggle. It wants air, the fire in there. I’ve opened the top by taking off the two cast-iron discs that cover the fire compartment. The fire likes that, its flames lick the air. I’m gonna try keeping it open like that for a bit, burning enough mid-size pieces to build a silly-thick pile of coals.

At 19:10 the first of two kettles atop the stove begins to sing. There are six of the disc-shaped cast iron pieces on top of the stove, all of which you can remove by fitting a handle-tong into a little notch at the edge of the disc. Two of the discs sit atop the fire compartment, which is on the left of the stove as you look at it. The other four discs are off to the right, sitting over the oven compartment. Heat from the fire compartment streams over in that direction, some exiting toward the chimney through a pipe going out the back of the stove, the rest heating the right side of the stove (including the kettles) and the oven chamber beneath.

EMU/Ga Southern is a staticky classic

Is this the part where I’m writing, or the part I’m writing about, or both?

“The rain is coming down in Montgomery,” says one of the radio men at the Camellia Bowl, heard locally here in Richwoods Township on AM 1590.

EMU takes the lead. The signal is coming in fairly clear now. I unplug from the socket the charging cord for my useless phone and the radio reception deteriorates. I plug it back in—copacetic! Unreal, funny AM, funny cellular. It’s all connected, these waves and frequencies. Do we really understand it?

The stove compartment is at 250°F. Leaving the top of the wood compartment open for a while seems to’ve allowed the fire some room to build itself up without resulting in too much smoke.

I’ve had another skirmish with the ON/OFF button. It’s on the top of the radio, the type of button you’ve got to press in so the radio goes on. Then when you press it in again it pops out and the radio is off. But it sways from side to side instead and its connection on the inside is failing. I really like this radio; I don’t think I could go buy one like it, or at least not easily. But I need to get a better radio for down here before long.

The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl is coming up. It’s one of my favorites! Nothing says early Bowl Season like the R+L Carriers Bowl. It’s almost always in that December 15-20 range, where the teams hail from smaller colleges and there isn’t any hype. But in the Pick-Em competition I do every year against my brother these games can count just as much as the headliners, maybe more. In this particular rendition of the R+L it’s Middle Tennessee State and Appalachian State. It starts at 20:00 central standard time. It will be on ESPN radio, if only I can conjure it.

But the Camellia Bowl is not done with us yet. Georgia Southern will attempt a last-second field goal to win it. Forty-yarder. Does it have the distance…? Yes!

It is 56°F in here, not great. I was able to make a grilled cheese though.

21:25. Trying to go to bed.



I woke up at 2:30

I continued to lie there for another fifteen minutes listening to the sporadic static. But there was a chill in this kitchen-room and I wanted to get up and stretch.

The fire was completely out, the top of the stove was not warm at all. I did not immediately attempt a restart. I flipped the switch on the radio from AM to FM and dialed down to 88.5 KMST Rolla. The first voice coming across the speaker had a British accent. Thus began what has now been ninety minutes of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s World Service.

The first segment covered Brexit—of course—but from the perspective of other European countries, specifically The Netherlands and Germany.

I must have scanned the FM dial only cursorily when last I was here, that sleepless night of the AM radio. At home earlier this week I studied up on the radio stations I could likely find in this area. I came across mention of this station, public radio out of Rolla. Last year the St Louis public radio station took them over. I’m curious whether the local news will be out of Rolla or out of St Louis.

So far the top- and bottom-of-the-hour updates are world news. Nothing stands out. The prime minister of Sri Lanka, who had resigned, has now returned. Do I have that right?

I’ve made coffee. It’s 4:15.

Shower liner over front door

Meteors and Mail

I’ll sleep a little more when the sun rises. On the whole I’ve been more comfortable on my own here in the Farmhaus. When I woke earlier I was able to take down the opaque shower liner I had hung over the front door, blocking the view. I cracked the front door and walked out onto the stoop.

The stars were quite bright, strong in the night sky. There was the Big Dipper, Cassiopoeia, Pleiades, Taurus, Orion. I was looking for meteors. The Geminid Meteor Shower peaked two or three nights ago. I don’t have my star chart. Neither do I have an idea of where Gemini sits in the sky. But I believe the Geminid meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.

I was out there in the frosty dark, in and out of the front door as I started small branches going again in the stove. But I didn’t see any meteors. There were a couple of planes. The Little Tavern is still flowing audibly under and over Redbird Lane aka TT-2A aka Maries Road 632.

It was otherwise quiet. I had my phone out as I stood on the stoop, glasses slung low on the bridge of my nose, naked eyes up to the sky, straining to adjust back and forth from sky to phone, looking for meteors, looking for mail.

Surprisingly the cell connection was strong enough to haul in my email. I had fourteen new messages, most of them from my dad. Among them several forwarded tweets: the St Louis Blues, horse racing, the stock market. There were also messages he sent with photos embedded in them, brief caption-type sentences explaining the photos. Such as,

“The dandy is coming home soon!”

A photo of my sister’s dog. And,

“She’s coming home next week!”

A photo of my sister, specifically a selfie she had posted to Instagram.

Ain’t Broke Enough to Fix

The stove re-start went better this time ’round. Last evening as the sun was setting I gathered some cedar limbs from the shed. They’ve been up there for a year or so. I broke them into pieces ranging from half-a-foot to a foot, suitable for the stove. My re-start fire began with these and this time I did not rush it. I had taken both disc-covers off the stove above the fire compartment and I burned up a fair bit of the cedar kindling before trying to add anything at all thick.

I kept the covers off and let the flames play, the coals beginning to build up bit by bit. It was smoky in here, I’m not sure there’s anyway around it. I am returning to a notion that the stove’s exhaust pipe is blocked or narrowed somewhere along its length. There are about four or five feet of stove piping rising and then bending from the back of the stove before sneeting the brick chimney shaft, which then extends to and through the roof.

Helm and I detached the stovepipe right where it sneets the chimney—it was not at all blocked—but we did not examine any of the other sections of the pipe. I’m not suggesting we do this, not necessarily.

I would place that hypothetical task in the growing category of the quandaries characterizing this Haus. Something appears to be not quite right but it’s not so bad to warrant an attempted fix that, if botched, likely would render the situation worse than it was in the beginning. Or, another way of saying this is, if it ain’t totally broke, muddle through.

Do I have a fire going? Yes. Is it reasonably comfortable in here? Yes, 62°F. Did I suffer smoke inhalation to get the stove going? No, not quite as bad as that.

Too Tech to Fail

The current story on the BBC World Service is about essay-writing companies. These companies write essays, which they sell. Students buy them but then get blackmailed into paying the company not to expose the cheating student to their university.

One of these big, sketchy essay-writing companies, based in the Ukraine, goes by the name of EduBirdie.

This company has bought ads on YouTube, creating some problems for the content creators who accepted EduBirdie as a sponsor. Basically, these YouTube personalities had EduBirdie ads run along with their videos. Which would have been all fine and good except that once critics of EduBirdie’s predatory practices complained to Google, Google responded by removing from YouTube any video that ran with an EduBirdie ad attached to it. The content creators thereby lost those videos and now they are not happy. Google, in what should not be a surprise, refused to comment for this story, the bastards.

Maybe the content-creators on YouTube should have had a better idea of what they were getting into but it sounds to me like Google was aware a problem existed and yet EduBirdie was allowed to continue placing ads on Google’s YouTube site with various content creators. Hmmmm.

These tech giants—Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon—are so large and so integral and yet it appears they have lapsed into this complacent state where they are either unable or unmotivated to regulate themselves. The atmosphere in which they have proliferated feels to me like the sea in which the too-big-to-fail banking giants swam in the middle part of the first decade of this century.

I don’t believe our government even could adequately regulate these tech behemoths as the companies are currently constituted. They are way too big. Antitrust de-construction and disassembly of these sprawling giants it the best approach. There is no reason why Facebook needs to own Instagram. There is no reason why Amazon needs to own Zappos, Whole Foods, and Amazon Web services. Unfortunately, antitrust is dead in this country and has been so for at least a couple of decades if not most of my life. Teddy Roosevelt, where have you gone?

Today’s Top Story

It’s eleven hours GMT, or five o’clock central standard time in Richwoods Township, Missouri, USA—dot com!

There is disappointment about the underwhelming result achieved at a recent climate change conference held in Poland. The summit was meant to be a follow-up to or a sort of implementation gathering for those countries who met in 2015 to agree the Paris Accord. It sounds like the Paris 2015 climate accord is dead in the plastic-filled, gradually warming water.

I intend to write more about global warming and climate change. I need to write about how my thinking on climate change has evolved, even over the last year or two.

But the clock ticks, the creek flows, the radio speaks—and I’ve discovered that Helm has left here a star chart of sorts.

Castor and Pollux

Only hours ago I was noting to myself the need to acquire another star chart so as to have one to leave out here. But then in a box on the big old TV in the middle room I found “Guide to the Night Sky: A Stargazer’s Companion.”

“The sun puts out enough energy in one hour to power the Earth for a year.”

Sure, but how do you catch that?

I’ve forgotten just how much I used to love to listen to the World Service. From say 2001 to 2008 I was a heavy listener, either by FM radio or by streaming it online, direct from the source.

From one star to the next. Where is Gemini? It’s still dark out there, I could still see me a meteor. It’s 5:35.

The open “V” of Taurus points toward Gemini, which sits over Orion’s right shoulder. There are two bright stars in Gemini: Castor and Pollux. Gemini is like two stick figures. I had heard it referred to previously as “The Twins” but I had never seen and understood the stick figures until now.

California is paying Arizona to take its solar energy. So much solar is hitting California’s power grid during the day that its grid is being overloaded and showing signs of stress. Then, at night, the solar power, not having been stored, is gone from the system and fossil fuels are needed to fill the void until the sun returns. I did not know this.

Coffee High

It is six o’clock. I am sipping my way through a pot of coffee. I love the espresso we make at home but when we switch from our drip coffeemaker to our espresso shooter I miss these stretches where I’m steadily sipping drip coffee, these coffee sessions, where I’m something like high on coffee: focused, interested, multi-dactyl, a ptero-fractal jackal and then I’m going to Washington D.C. to take back the White House, whooooo!

I had stepped out to find Castor and Pollux but I was deflated to see that the sky had clouded up a little. There were some clear patches of sky, and there the stars were winking, sparkling and twinkling. But directly overhead a thin blanket of altostratus—not quite cirrus, I believe—had moved in and was floating along, blurring much of the sky. The Big Dipper hung behind this translucent sheath, visible but blurry.

I did, though, see one short-lived, flame-yellow meteor. So that’s something.

It was still quiet out there. I heard what could either have been cows or bullfrogs. There were coyotes last night, right after gloaming and then again at 20:00. The coyotes were not far away, bellowing in a vaguely sexual way, wolfy and deep. There were no owls.

When it gets light I’ll look for birds. I wanted to walk up Redbird Lane to Alder Springs Road but I don’t think I can cross the creek where it overflows the road—not without getting my feet swamped.

Local update: it’s the KWMU guy, Mike Schrand. The World Service is over. Now it’s the national schedule, starting off with “On the Media”. The topic is germs, disease and how the media covers and delivers news of these diseases. Ebola, the flu, West Nile, the next pandemic.

I bought a bright orange beanie hat—tuque—at Orscheln yesterday. B is gonna flip when she sees it. It’s not something she would think I’d buy. But if I’m walking today I want to be seen, and identified, as human.

Play dom-jot, human?

Morning gloaming?

The Word for that is Dawn

At 6:20 I step out and most of the sky is clear again. Toward the pasture, the horizon begin to take shape, daybreak. Morning gloaming? Is there a word for that? Oh, yeah, dawn. It’s not quite sunrise. It’s first light.

In the sky behind the house is a large, bright object resembling a chunk of moon. It is too bright and too large to be a star. Venus, a k a the Morning Star? It has to be Venus but the little wisp of cloud cover shrouds it with something like a halo, enlarging it, magnifying it, though in a blurry way. Strange.

Bring Down: Oil, e.g. Canola

It’s 7:45. Keeping open the side flap, the stove aileron, has helped the fire keep hot without smoking too much. Ditto leaving one of the top discs slightly ajar.

I heated up the soup I brought. I was a hamburger soup, the recipe a la mi madre. I had foolishly wondered whether there would be a saucepan here in which to heat it. Ask and ye shall receive. There is quite a nice saucepan here. I set it atop the stove, stoked the fire and let the soup sit as I went up to the pasture gate to take a look at the sunrise.

The cows were milling about, a wren rattled hello, juncos flitted and chirped. It’s frosty this morning but the sunrise was colorful with clouds present in just the right amount, high up, feathered.


When I returned to the house the soup was bubbling hot. With caution I ate it, and was grateful. Looking ahead to lunch I took my (f)oiled tater out of the blue bucket and placed it in the stove compartment. It’s 200°F in there. I don’t know how long the potato will take to cook at that temperature. A few hours?

Now I will go up to the shed to look for some old boards with which Patrick V can make a mantle. I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for but perhaps I will know it when I see it.

Shed and pasture


I planted some squash seeds. Acorn, buttnerut and spaghetti. I don’t have high hopes but I had the seeds and I figure, why not? I scoured down an inch or so and scattered them, covered back up. Who knows.

More recently I started work on firewood. Moving, splitting, sorting. I’ve changed clothes. My left big toe is numb. A second pot of coffee is brewing.

Cedar Days

It’s 13:00 and I’m finishing off my tater. I ate most of it half an hour ago, put more topping on it, then put it back in the stove. This melted the butter and the cheese nicely.

I’m whooped. I ran the saw in order to get some split-worthy pieces of cedar. The cedars I wanted to get at seemed to be guarded by the cows so I left them alone and found a few skinnier ones.

I also collected a fair bit of cedar limbs, snapping them to appropriate length. They’re a pain to snap even when they’re dry. They remain very bendy and as you are trying to snap them they are surging with potential energy that erupts when you finally make the break. The energy then transfers to your fingers and hands and you don’t miss the shock of the transfer. It’s much better done with a pair of loppers. Either way, the cedar limbs make the best kindling.

I’ve tidied up in here, putting my things away—off the table, off the floor—if I wasn’t in immediate need of them. I took my cooler outside to empty it. I laid out a tarp and took all of the cooler contents out of the cooler and set them on the tarp. I had to do this because the flask of Old Granddad I started out with had leaked en route. Opening the cooler resulted in a whiff of spilled liquor. I thought it’d be a bad idea to drive around with a bourbon-reeking cooler. I’ve had that same “disposable” flask for at least five years. It’s seen a lot of booze but it’s time has come.

As I was emptying the cooler I heard something splash through the creek where it flowing over the road. I caught a flash of something black, running like a dog. Coyote? It was running not quite all out but earnestly—a black dog that looked a heck of lot like Hugo. That was eerie.

On Being

I laid down but I could not fall asleep. “On Being” is on. It’s engaging, probably the reason I could not fall asleep.

My body hurts. I’m tight and sore, in my back, all over my back, toward my neck. It’s been hard feeling like this physically for as long as I have. I haven’t really rested myself. The middle of my back, under my right shoulder, is pulling all the rest of me into it, like a black hole.

This show is deep but useful. It’s like therapy. There is talk of coping. I was thinking earlier that there are coping mechanisms that, although I am aware of them, I do not employ.

A very red squirrel.

Breathing, for instance. For awhile there I was trying to meditate. Ten minutes a day, trying to still everything out, clear my head. Then, abruptly, I stopped. I’m going to dowload this as a podcast and listen to it again. It sounds cheesy but it’s about “being comfortable with what we cannot solve”.

In some ways I have let my mind get very lazy. Or if that is not the right word then perhaps I want to say “untrained” or “out of shape”.

This is getting very meta—which is one of my problems. So I’ll rest it, for now.

Next is “To the Best of Our Knowledge”. This week, ‘The Secret Life of Trees”. It’s gonna make me feel awful about that red maple we had cut down. It was a controversial decision. The controversy and the decision both mine.

Boards and Bacon

Some sleep would help but the outside is so inviting today, so pleasant, so light. I found at least one decent mantle-board candidate for P Vaughan. There is a pile of boards in the main shed, on the end by the pasture. The boards once constituted a different shed, the one that stood down by where we have our Farm Party fires. We took it all down one of the first times I was here.

There were other candidate boards in the pile but as I went deeper it was clear that the boards were home to spiders, recluses if I had to say, their messy little white webs like nests, from which I was stirring them, inducing a writhing response both in them and in me. I’ll check the barn, where the tractor is stowed, to see if there are any unattached candidates in there.

At 17:45 I am frying a pack of bacon in a big cast iron skillet I am calling The Baconator.

Ode to Cedar

The stove compartment’s temperature gauge seems to be simultaneously able to tell you what temperature water will be at as it sits in a kettle on the stove above the oven. Just as the stove compartment’s thermometer needle passes 200°F, steam begins to escape from the stove-top kettle.

I’ve been adding a good bit of cedar. Forget all the other woods. Cedar is the best. It may, as Helm notes, burn hot but quick. But that it burns, that it does not smoke, is paramount. I cut this specific piece earlier today out of a fallen adolescent cedar tree, split it in half an hour later. It split in half easily, no drama. What else can you ask for?

As you carry a bundle of cedar it is noticeably light, which means it does not give you the lasting burn you would like—the kettle beckons—but as a percentage of what I am adding to the fire compartment, in the way of “always add a little, it’s like a sort of kindling,” cedar is the firetender’s best friend. And the wood is so pretty on top of everything else. Ah, I’m swept away, loving cedar.

Winding-Down Notes

I want to note some things. I replaced the bulb in the pump room. It had burned out. I put the original thermometer back up on the wall in the kitchen. It’s 66°F in here, not bad. It’s 20:21.

I went back into the spider boards for mantle wood. I checked the barn. There was a nice 6′ x 6″ x 6″ post but it was sixty pounds at least and a little pockmarked by time and weather and who knows what else. Spider party, probably. Not something I wanted to lug into or out of the Subaru. I’ve got three boards. I swept them all, by hand and by broom. One I sprayed with deet. It had nice length and nice holes—character. It also had some arachnid on it, in it, under it. Alas, alackaday, alors.

I backed the nails out of these boards, fifteen nails. I used the hammer that has always been on the back porch. The hammer bangs carried out across Missouri. The nails I tossed into what I take to be a ‘dillo burrow aside the stoop, out in front of and going under the house.

I’ve been up since 2:30. It’s basically past midnight for me. But I don’t really want to sleep.

My dinner was bacon. Six pieces?

Bacon on the stove. Order up!

Sunday Night Football

Doors closed, stove technique improving. The temp in here has spiked to 75°F!

There is Sunday Night Football. The Eagles lead the Rams 19-15. For the second Sunday here in a row—separated by five weeks—it is Eagles football on the radio.

The Rams are on the schneid.

Perhaps I need to bring my lantern. Or a couple of candles, for low light. Goff tries to throw one away but it gets picked. I wish I could text my brother.

Exit Farm

I awake at 5:30. I had the World Service going all night. There was some argument between a British host and a Hungarian woman for half an hour at about 3:30, that I could not sleep through. I’m not sure what that was about. Otherwise it was a decent night’s sleep. But it’s chilly in here now and I’ll have to do a re-start.

I take down the shower liner from the front door, sliding the coin magnet up and up along the metal cabinet until the liner falls free of it, into gravity, down. It is still dark.

The light-sensitive fixture out front rightly has its bulb on duty and I can see a little. Looking out, I can see enough to know that it’s frosty again out there. How cold is it? There’s only one way to know, so I step outside.

There isn’t a cloud in the sky. The stars have shifted, spinning quickly, rearranging the set on the sly as I slept.

The Big Dipper is still above me, though. It is above the trees, above the sandstone, above the creek and above the fields. But I struggle, looking north before dawn, to put a name on anything else.